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Personal Reflection: Practicing Patience, Empathy and Compassion as a Caregiver

Caring for an aging or sick loved one deserves deep respect and recognition. It also requires an enormous commitment of time, energy and endless patience, compassion, and empathy.

Yesterday, I made a friendly visit to one of our clients. He is an 82+ year old Holocaust survivor. I brought a small bouquet of pink flowers for his wife, who is also a Holocaust survivor. We sat down at the dining room table and began to talk. She told me how her husband survived the Holocaust. She said he was an infant when the Nazi's invaded their town in Europe. His mother quickly wrapped him up in a blanket and ran outside and saw a neighbor in the street. She told the neighbor to hand the baby over to the Red Cross. He survived, his entire family was sent to a concentration camp where they died in a gas chamber. My client began to quietly cry while his wife was telling me this story. A few minutes later she got up from the table and went into the kitchen where I heard her crying. I followed her into the kitchen and she told me they were married for a long time and her husband used to be strong and active. Now look at him, he is weak and I take good care of him but it is hard. I stood there with her and gave her a long hug.

Everyone has a story, a past, a history. Sometimes we know the story and sometimes we don't. I respect every client and family member/caregiver. Aging is not easy. Everyone deserves to be listened to, to be heard and to have dignity and recognition. Caregiving requires a lot of patience when dealing with clients and/or family caregivers. Everyone deserves compassion, empathy, and patience. The elderly and/or their caregivers can be experiencing pain, chronic sickness, disability, loss of independence, dementia/cognitive issues, etc. Caregivers can be dealing with burnout or compassion fatigue.

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

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